The Lotus Eaters

 

writing, work in progress, wip, the lotus eaters,

I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women there are in me.-Anais Nin

 

I have been silent these past few months. Not only on my website but somewhat on social media. This year has been hard, but I do feel like it has made me a stronger person.

My writing goals have fallen by the side of the road, but hopefully, I am finally getting back on track. I am trying to work on a novel right now.

It’s called the Lotus Eaters. I suppose you could call it a coming of age novel, but it’s more a novel of transformation. (At least right now in the early stages). It’s not the ‘novel of my heart’ but it’s something I need to get off my chest of course.

I hope to keep the site updated with my writing process and some reviews and perhaps even the college life!

 

Write Now (3?)

I’m having trouble writing again. I’ve been wasting time (in my view) by playing video games. I haven’t been productive. I don’t feel blocked per se. I can still write, but it’s mostly freewriting. I still have ideas, but no concrete movement you know? I haven’t an utter clue what’s wrong. My inclination is to google it lol.

I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. This year hasn’t been exactly easy for my family and I. But I feel so empty when I don’t write…

You’re in Love: On Writing and Publication

writing publishing love

For as long as I can remember I have loved writing. I don’t remember exactly when the bug took hold but I pinpoint it to the early millennium when I was in the first throes of my pop music obsession and needed an outlet to deal with it. I don’t know why, but I decided to write about the various pop stars at the time (You know Britney, Justin, Nick [both Carter and Lachey], Jessica and Christina) in this fangled melodramatic soap opera. I say this with fondness.

I didn’t write again seriously until I was in my late teens. Picture it: Britney’s in and out of rehab. I’m in and out of the hospital. How do I deal? By writing poetry and…journaling? I picked up more than medication while I was hospitalized. I picked up one of the greatest habits of my life. Did I hate it, at first, having to journal three times a fucking day? Are you kidding me? It irked the shit out me. Something in it appealed to me though because I continue to do it to this day whether I’m happy, sad, elated, or bored. I have a deep need to reflect back on things and seeing as my memories can play tricks on me it’s nice to have a written record.

Writing has always been something I’ve done for pleasure, but for the past few years I’ve been chasing that elusive goal: to be published. I was published albeit on a tiny scale and you know what? Nothing changed. I got what I wanted and while I was excited, of course, my old feelings of not feeling like I measured up and needing to prove myself still came back.

I’ve been focusing so much on trying to get published that I lost sight of why I began to write in the first place. Because I love it. Writing seems more like a chore and not something I look forward to. It seems like *gasp* a job! Not a career!

I’m determined to change that. I’m going back to the basics. I need to find my love for writing again. I know one thing for sure: I’ll enjoy the ride.

I Live for the Thrill of Challenges

I never thought of myself as competitive, but I suppose I do have a competitive streak in me somewhere. I always feel the need to prove myself. For this reason, I love challenges especially when they relate to writing. I recently rejoined a writing community on Livejournal called Writerverse. It’s a neat community where you get sorted into two separate teams and you earn points for your team by writing. The aspect I like the most though is that it pushes me outside of my regular comfort writing zone. I love the challenge for February. Here is my Table of Doom. We have to pick ONE musician and choose fifteen of their lyrics and write a minimum of 400 words. I can’t wait! I choose Coldplay. I was going to pick Lana del Rey, but I decided to use them instead. I don’t know exactly why yet, but I look forward to finding out!

Here are the lyrics I chose along with their songs.

1. Just a puppet on a lonely string (Viva La Vida)
2. If you love me, won’t you let me know? (Violet Hill)
3. My nerves are poles that unfroze (Violet Hill)
4. There’s a cold war coming (Life in Technicolor II)
5. Now my feet won’t touch the ground (Life in Technicolor II)
6. Come up to meet you, tell you I’m sorry (The Scientist)
7. I’m going back to the start (The Scientist)
8. Crossed lines I shouldn’t have crossed (In My Place)
9. How long must you wait for it? (In My Place)
10. Oh brother, I can’t get through (Talk)
11. Do you feel like a puzzle? You can’t find your missing piece? (Talk)
12. I feel like they’re talking in a language I don’t speak/And they’re talking it to me (Talk)
13. Lights will guide you home (Fix You)
14. And birds go flying at the speed of sound (Speed of Sound)
15. Life’s a drink and love’s a drug (Hymn for the Weekend)

Mammy Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: On Writing Black Historical Romance Heroines

Image for Mammy Blog Post

Head of a Mulatto Woman by Joanna Mary Boyce

Credit: freeparking on Flickr

I’ve had quite a few existential crises in my short time here on Earth, least of which, is the handwringing over how to reconcile my love of  historical romance novels with the lack of representation for women like myself in them.

It wasn’t something I noticed at first until I gradually became as some would say ‘woke’, but once I awakened from my beauty sleep, I realized that none of the people in my favorite genre looked like me. The exception to this seemed to be Addy from the American Girl books that I read when I was a preteen and those weren’t exactly historical romances know what I mean?

Which brings me to my next point and another case of handwringing. How do I as an author write about women like myself (for the record African American) with our history? Now at the time,  I was thinking about writing lighthearted Regencies and I thought to myself: Destiny, you can’t write lighthearted books about slave women. There’s no way!

So that was another reason I put off writing historical romance.

  1. I couldn’t write about women like me
  2. And if I did they would be doomed to suffer!

Now in my defense, I wasn’t quite aware at the time of free people of color and authors like Beverly Jenkins. And it hadn’t crossed my mind that like other authors I could write about black women from different countries in different time periods.

No, I gave up the fight.

But something deep inside me still wanted to write a historical romance and it was important to me that the heroine be like me and, in this case, I meant a Southern-bred African American woman.

And wouldn’t you know some kind of epiphany came over me. If anyone needed love and affection in their life, it was the slave woman and suddenly it didn’t seem so hard to write about.

I’m currently working on a story, which while not taking place in the South (or on Earth for that matter) has most of the trappings of the historical romance genre and the heroine is a black woman. A book that I loved, Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan, showed me that there was a place for women like me in historicals. I was so enraptured when I first read that book. I literally read it within the hour while waiting in the student building for my bus to come. I liked it that much. It showed me that it was possible that a black woman could be the heroine too.

One of the beautiful things about being a black woman is that there is such a variety of us. We are not carbon copies. We cannot be fit into molds and neither can our ancestors. So the sky is the limit as far as what I can write about and goddess knows I’ll have fun researching!

How Your Learning Style Can Help Your Writing Process

Students from Fasi Moi Afi Government primary school take part in a class activity. Part of the refurbishment of Fasi Moi Afi school was funded by AusAID.
(photo from dfataustralianaid on Flickr)

I have a secret. I hear dead people…OK so maybe it hasn’t gotten that far, but I DO hear things sometimes. It can be my characters talking to me or something more sinister, but what both have taught me is that I’m primarily an auditory person.

 

Do you remember those little tests they gave you in school? They had nothing to do with your schoolwork, but how you did it.

 

What I learned from those was that I’m an auditory learner. I’m stubborn though because I’m only now putting this information to good use and especially for my writing. I’ve been aware for awhile now that I have trouble visualizing. I discovered by accident while listening to music, a little trick that helps me visualize better. I was playing music and my characters popped into my head, but instead of speaking, they started to act out scenes as though they were in a movie. Thinking about it, the signs have been there for years, but you know how that tale goes. If you have trouble visualizing your world or characters, then here are some tips for you based on your learning style.

 

 

Find your learning style.

The first step is to find your learning style. Here is my favorite Self-Assessment Learning Style Quiz from Education Planner.

What’s your style

There are three primary types

  • Visual learners learn best by sight.
  • Auditory  learners learn best by hearing
  • Tactile learners learn best by touch

Tips

So what does this mean for the senses?

If you’re a visual learner then your best friend will probably be a mood board or a storyboard.

If you are an auditory learner, then you can make a playlist setting the mood for your story or characters.

If you are a tactile learner, then you can act out your scenes that you have in mind so you can visualize better.

 

It might take some time, but finding a method that works with your learning style and for your writing process will help if like me you have trouble visualizing. For instance, I like to have index cards nearby so I can write out my ideas while the music plays.

What about you? What’s your learning style? How do you like to write?

I Love…Love?

Every writer worth their salt has heard that old adage: write what you love. Right? I know I have. So then why did it take me this long to listen to that saying?

A quick scroll through my reviews either here or on Goodreads and you might see that I have a boner for historical romances. I attribute this to the fact that my first romance ever was one. I’ve always loved the past, though. I used to live for when my grandma would tell me stories of her childhood in the 40s. I didn’t, of course, know that it was exactly the 40s at that point in my life, but I knew it was a long time ago!

The novel that I had been working on, while I liked it, was a contemporary. I like contemporary stories, don’t get me wrong, but part of the allure of historical books for me are that they allow me to get lost in another world. I especially like imaging that the stories actually happened. Maybe an Emperor of Rome did fall in love with the peasant girl? Ha.

I’ve been fighting my impulses to write historical books though and especially romances for two main reasons:

  1. Historical stories involve WAY more research than contemporary
  2. I want to be a ‘serious’ writer and ‘serious’ writers don’t write romance apparently

Regarding the first one that’s no excuse for me because I love to research. It’s one of my favorite activities regardless of whether I’m doing it for writing or not. So I don’t know what I was thinking.

The second though has caused me to go back and forth on whether or not I wanted to write a romance novel. Anyone can tell you I love the genre. Hell, I will tell anyone that will listen that I love the genre. I don’t care who knows it, but I have this desire for my work to be taken seriously. Over these past few years, while I didn’t stop writing about love per se, I focused more of the negative aspects of love because that’s somehow more worthy of inspection than the good traits of it. Personally, I think both are worthy of writing about. I love writing about love! In all its various forms.

So I think my goal will be over the coming months will be to reconcile my need to be taken seriously and my need to write what I love…will I make it? I think so. I usually do.

My Love

I was on the Absolute Write Forums reading about Writer’s block. While I haven’t been suffering writer’s block per se, I have been sort of jammed. I couldn’t make any progress on a novel I’ve been planning and the last novel I had been writing (When Chloe Met Jordana) is sitting unfinished on my hard drive.

So I read a post about looking over your old work. I was skeptical at first as I so often am, but I took a chance and I’m actually excited about writing again! The thread is Unstuck or How to Unfuzz a Brain by stormie.

For me personally, it reminded me of the basic reasons of why I write. Because I love it. Because I have this compulsion to tell stories. I’ve been focusing so much on publishing that it has derailed my passion for the craft/art.

I wrote in my journal that I want this year to focus on my art. I just want to write without worrying about how I’m going to sell my work. It just makes me frustrated. First, I need to finish the work right?

Can’t Have It All: On HFNs

Photo by Gulan Bollsay on Flickr
Photo by Gulan Bollsay on Flickr

I’ve been thinking about how to turn my love of romance novels and the love story in general and my need to explore the dark side of humanity into something that I, and hopefully others, would like to read. How would one go about doing that?

I know that there is such a term as ‘dark romance’ and I have read a few of them, but it’s not something I’m really interested in writing. I feel like the genre takes dark impulses in every human being and amplifies them  to the point where it’s monstrous and that is not necessarily what I am looking to write at this time.

I suppose I want to write about the messy side of love. I read a lot of romance novels and they all get tied up neatly or the HEA if you will. Thinking about it there is the HFN label. I haven’t explored that sub-category (?) yet. I think that will be next reading assignment.

 

What about you? Do you have problems with the romance genre? Are they any HFN (Happy for Now) romance novels you’d like to recommend this merry reader?

On Novelling and Versification

I’ll spare the old adage of me not writing here in months. Been there, don’t that.

A few things have happened.

1. I published something! In my school magazine.

2. I started college, which fits into the above I suppose.

This last semester didn’t go as smoothly as my first. I really think my first semester of school went so well because I was so happy. I was in college after all. I had wanted so bad to go back to school and I finally achieved it. I was motivated.

I withdrew my second semester in the Fall. I’m not going to rehash it, but I needed a break. I went back this Spring. I liked my experience this semester a lot, but sometimes old friends visit. But I am proud of myself for finishing.

Most of the writing I did this year was for my English Composition II class. I really liked that. I like writing essays it seems and especially about literature and favorite authors. (I did all five of my essays on women. Pushing that feminist agenda!) But I really missed my creative work. I wrote here and there, but not much.

But I have been consistently working on my poetry. I frequently tell myself I work better on poetry because of the length. I can work, rework, revise poems in half the time it takes to write a novel.

I am about 50,000 words into Chloe’s book. But damn I’m tired of it. I’m writing bits and pieces of it, but I’m not really making any concrete movement.

But I’m going to get better at this novelling thing. I’m going to practice. I practice my poetry and I think I’m currently a much better poet than a novelist.

The concept of practice novels intrigue me. Technically I’ve got a few practice novels of my own. I’ve started at least one or two. The Lord and the Duchess is tucked into my hard drive. I don’t think it’ll ever see the light of day.

I read on Joyce Carol Oates wiki page that she wrote novels and then threw them away! And she’s written and published TONS of novels so I’m awed! I don’t think I’m at the point where I could throwaway a novel especially one that I finished. I’m a very sentimental person when it comes to saving things. Some would call it hoarding, but I’m not going to go there today.

Practice is the key! I’ve gotten back into doing writing exercises and I’m trying out the concept of morning and evening pages. I joined 750words awhile back and I just wrote my first entry. I finished my evening pages about an hour ago. So far, so good!